On Tuesday, November 1, a couple hundred thousand people around the world will participate in National Novel Writing Month, which, despite its intuitive name, I’ll explain here: The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel (that’s about 175 manuscript pages, based on a count of approximately 300 words per page) in thirty days.
That’s about 1,700 words, or six double-spaced manuscript pages, give or take, a day — assuming that you write every day.
Insane? More like insanely ingenious. The idea behind this seemingly insurmountable goal is to write for quantity, not for quality — to dash off a first draft under the auspices of a worldwide project to distance yourself from the little voice in your head that tells you that you should go back and polish that passage, pare that paragraph, or prune that page.
It’s basically hours and hours of feverish, fervent, frantic freewriting — a technique for unleashing your creativity by abandoning any pretext of inserting your editorial alter ego into the process. Write, write some more, and just keep on writing, without looking back.
The sponsors of NaNoWriMo, as it’s abbreviated, acknowledge that may seem like a risky endeavor. You may limp to a finish at midnight on November 30, only to discover that you have devoted much of your precious time to churning out — what? What did you accomplish? The product of a few hundred thousand keystrokes. Is it ready for publication? Hardly.
But no novel, no short story, no poem, no article or review or essay or other composition, is print-ready. That’s not the point. The point is that you will have overcome your trepidation at devoting so much time and effort toward crafting a towering achievement in prose, using the novelty of the project as an excuse. And then you will have a first draft of a novel (and then the real work starts).
Last year, only a little more than 10 percent of participants reached their goal of producing the first draft of a 50,000-word novel. But nearly 200,000 others staggered away from their computers on the last day of November with at least the start of something satisfying.
Sign up at the NaNoWriMo Web site, and explore the site’s features to help you motivate yourself. One of these is a tool that lets you update your word count daily. You can also post excerpts of your work in progress for others to read.
So, are you going to give it a shot? Of course you are. Good luck!